Georgia crushes Michigan in the Orange Bowl. The bad news: next Alabama

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Georgia Bulldogs wide receiver Jermaine Burton (7) celebrates in the end zone with teammates after scoring in the second quarter against the Michigan Wolverines in the 2021 College Football Playoff semi-final at the Capital One Orange Bowl held at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., Friday, December 31, 2021.

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The best and original unscripted reality show – Sports – came into real life on Friday night in Game 88 of the Orange Bowl.

More than 60,000 fans in the mood for celebration packed Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens for a college football playoff semi-final game.

It wasn’t as much as the 75,962 new COVID-19 cases reported in Florida earlier on Friday, the largest single-day increase since the pandemic began in March 2020.

“Good year!” It sounded a bit of irony when we hosted in 2022, with the sport once again doing its best to get through it all, but not knowing exactly how, like the rest of us.

Five bowl games have been canceled for COVID-related reasons, others have been disrupted. That included the Miami Hurricanes’ withdrawal from Friday’s Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas after a virus outbreak, with the game continuing after a last-minute replacement school was discovered.

Real life hung in the air in the build-up of the Orange Bowl, a South Florida institution and tradition since 1935. It was born out of the Great Depression and withstood a world war; he will survive a pandemic.

“Definitely excited to be in Miami, but as we all know it’s a hot spot for COVID,” Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis said upon arrival.

The College Football Playoff was prepared to forfeit, not postpone, if one of the last four schools competing for the national championship couldn’t field a team on Friday, but all four did.

Unfortunately, only two of the four schools have fielded a worthy team.

In the Orange Bowl, the Georgia Bulldogs crushed the Michigan Wolverines, 34-11.

This was right after the Cotton Bowl outside of Dallas saw reigning dynastic champion Alabama similarly crush the upstart from Cincinnati, 27-6.

These were two lousy and disappointing semi-finals – to an almost embarrassing degree – if we could betray the bounty of the holiday spirit and get real.

Cincinnati was at least the smallest school at the end of a magical year. What excuse could Michigan claim?

There was probably much better competition than those two semi-finals on New Years Eve as you tried to outdo your neighbor with your Walmart fireworks.

The betting line on Alabama-Geoirgia will be tight as the two meet for the national championship on Jan. 10 in Indianapolis. The first row, released Friday night, had Georgia a 1 1/2 point pick. It may change.

Nick Saban is 25-1 against his former assistant coaches, including 4-0 against Kirby Smart of Georgia.

The wisdom or even common sense of the Orange Bowl can be debated with a full stadium on Friday amid new COVID cases reaching record highs in Florida.

We cannot debate this:

In college football, the Southeastern Conference reigns supreme, and it is not closed.

“We think we’re playing in the best conference in the world,” Smart said afterwards from the field, accepting the orange-filled OB trophy as red confetti fell.

Both Alabama and Georgia originated from the powerful SEC. As expected, Cinderella Cincinnati, of the US non-Power 5 conference, was routed. Routed, less expected, was the Michigan pedigree of the Big Ten.

So much is changing, all around us, as we speak, in college football. Seismic stuff. Tectonic plates are moving.

The new Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) law redefines amateurism, as college athletes are now allowed to be paid.

The college football transfer portal is equivalent to a free agency of players, allowing athletes to change schools without penalty.

The NCAA weakens, loses control.

Schools move from one conference to another.

What has not changed:

Alabama Crimson Tide and iconic six-time national champion coach Nick Saban remain prominent and in charge.

Georgia may be up to the challenge. Good…

Again, that’s what Georgia was thinking not quite a month ago, Dec. 4 in the SEC Championship game, when the Bulldogs arrived with a change of guard in mind and had been educated by Saban and the Tide, 41-24.

Georgia have one of the greatest epic defenses in college football history, as they proved against Michigan on Friday.

But Saban solved it.

Just as he resolved a Cincinnati team that, at 13-0, was the only undefeated team in the last four.

“The 5th power is opinion. 13-0 is a fact, ”read the signs held by Bearcats fans on Friday outside of Dallas.

Yes, and just north of downtown Miami, Wolverines fans were convinced this was the year Michigan could head to their first National Championship since 1997. Then Georgia – in search of their first. national crown since 1980 – said no, sorry.

Now Georgia must resolve an Alabama team they’ve lost seven times in a row, including a few weeks ago.

So much changes in college football, but it absolutely doesn’t until you hear it changed:

Nick Saban and Alabama rule the kingdom, from above, looking down.

This story was originally published December 31, 2021 11:02 pm.

Greg Cote is a Miami Herald sports columnist who, in 2018, was named one of the Top 10 Columnists by the Associated Press Sports Editors. Greg also appears regularly on the Dan LeBatard Show With Stugotz on ESPN Radio and ESPNews.


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